Pupils report bullying to their teachers by text message
Richard Garner has been Education Editor of The Independent for 12 years and writing about the subject for 34 years. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a disc jockey in London pubs and clubs and for a hospital radio station. His main hobbies are cricket (watching these days) and theatre. On his days off, he is most likelt to be found at Lord’s or the King’s Head Theatre Club.
Sunday 05 May 2013
Children can now text their teachers to report bullying, in an initiative that makes it safer to come forward.
Many bullying victims are reluctant to speak out for fear their tormentors will make their lives even more of a misery if they are spotted reporting them to an adult. The new service, called “Text Someone”, allows pupils to complain about bullying at a distance. They do not even have to give their names – although teachers would be able to contact them through their email address if they thought it necessary to help them.
Leicester City Council is pioneering the initiative by becoming the first authority in the country to give all its schools software, which enables their pupils to report instances “24/7” via text, phone and online. The system also has the advantage of allowing a bystander to report an instance of bullying, even if they are not the victim.
Dr Joe Dawson, principal education psychologist with Leicester City Council, said: “Technology is now making it easier for young people to report bullying from the safety of their home via text message or online.
“One of the main difficulties schools face is reluctance from young people to report bullying face-to-face or in school.”
The scheme is also helping schools to identify areas where bullying takes places, and tackle incidents that happen outside school.
In one instance, a girls’ school received reports that one of their pupils was being bullied by boys from another school on the bus on her way to school. “The pupil sent a text message which the bullying co-ordinator at her school was able to deal with by speaking to the school concerned,” Dr Dawson said.
The software was developed by the city council in consultation with the Contact Group, a firm which specialises in providing technological systems to schools. The group now has 2,000 schools signed up to use its equipment, in the UK, Ireland and Australia.
Martin Ebbage, deputy headteacher of Tupton Hall school in Derbyshire, said the initiative had made it easier for pupils to report instances of bullying. “We take the line children often ‘talk with their thumbs’ and texting provides them with a familiar medium to communicate issues they might otherwise find difficult,” he said.
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